Drought ‘red alert’ declared at China’s largest lake

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The central Chinese province of Jiangxi has declared a water supply “red alert” for the first time after the Poyang freshwater lake, the country’s biggest, dwindled to a record low, the Jiangxi government has said.

The Poyang Lake, normally a vital flood outlet for the Yangtze, China’s longest river, has been suffering from drought since June, with water levels at a key monitoring spot falling from 19.43 metres to 7.1 metres over the last three months.

The Jiangxi Water Monitoring Centre said Poyang’s water levels would fall even further in the coming days, with rainfall still minimal.

Precipitation since July is 60% lower than a year earlier, it said.

Tourists walk by an ancient Ming Dynasty bridge which emerged from the dried-up Poyang Lake
A view of Xieshan Island standing on the dried lake bed of Poyang Lake due to high temperatures

As many as 267 weather stations across China reported record temperatures in August, and a long dry spell across the Yangtze river basin severely curtailed hydropower output and damaged crop growth ahead of the autumn harvest.

Though heavy rain has relieved the drought in much of southwest China, central regions continue to suffer, with extremely dry conditions now stretching more than 70 days in Jiangxi.

A total of ten reservoirs in neighbouring Anhui province have fallen below the “dead pool” level, meaning they are unable to discharge water downstream, the local water bureau said earlier this week.

State weather forecasters said this week that drought conditions still prevailed in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze, and efforts were required to seed clouds and divert water from elsewhere.

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